Young Adult All The Way

I’ve recently started reading a novel by an author who has previously written for young adults. I loved the young adult book because it had a good premise, excellent world-building, relatable characters and unpredictably. I was fully expecting the adult one to contain all these things but on a bigger scale.

Instead, I found none of these things. What I did find was bizarre and somewhat pompous language selection. Reading the novel made me aware that the author must have “dumbed down” his writing style for the young adult book. But why? The adult book was at times incomprehensible. It made me feel stupid. It almost seemed to mock me and my inability to work out what was going on. And thanks to the surreal writing style, the dialogue came off as entirely unbelievable. I struggled to relate to the main character (who is more-or-less the same age as I am and works in an office like I do) when I have no problem relating to post-apocalyptic heroine hunters.

The experience has made me consider what young adult really means to me. Why am I so much more satisfied with a young adult novel? Why do I choose to read a young adult novels over adult novels? Why do read them (and lots of them) with un-flagging attention while I struggle to stick with an adult book to the end? Here’s some of the ideas I’ve come up with:

1. Clear Writing

I’ve never been made to feel stupid by a young adult novel. That’s not to say they don’t stretch me. I’ll still reach for the from time to time, but the process is enjoyable, it’s a learning process. I’m rarely presented with a situation where my mind boggles, where I can’t work out what the characters are doing. That’s not to say I’m necessarily happy with where the plot it going but I can, at the very least, understand it. (And no, before you ask, I don’t have any problems with reading!) More importantly, I’m made to feel included. The author wants me to get what’s going on. There’s no pretentiousness. The ultimate result is that I can move through the plot without having to re-read passages to work out what the hell's going on.

2. Well paced / fast-moving plots

If your local book shop is anything like mine, the adult novels are grouped by genre whilst the teen novels are grouped together simply for being for teens. I like sci-fi, but selecting a novel from the sci-fi section gives me no indication as to how it will be written. Is there action or is it long and arduous? Are there going to be huge long descriptions of technologies and political systems? Will the novel start with a long back-story laying out all the world-building facts I’ll need in the back of my mind if I hope to understand anything it’s on about? It’s hard to know. But if I selected a sci-fi from the young adult section, there’s a very high chance that the story will start right where it needs to and not a moment sooner, any descriptions of technologies and political systems will be woven throughout and only if necessary, and yes, there will be a hell of a lot of action. Why? Because that’s what agents take on. That’s what agents believe will sell. And does that stuff sell because teens have shorter attention spans? Or is it because, like me, they want to consume as many stories and messages and ideas as possible? There’s not enough time to read every book in the world and I tend not to pick the one where I’m playing catch-up with an author’s imagination. I tend to choose the one where the author’s made sure every last word is relevant.

3. Not really feeling like a grown-up

This is probably the most significant point and the one that is most young adult specific. We do a lot of learning when we’re teenagers. We start becoming who we want to be, rather than who we’re told to be. We leave our learning institutions, some of us for ever. But it’s not easy. It’s been several years since I stopped actually being a teenager, but the person who emerged out of those formative years is still me and I still need and want coming-of-age messages. I don’t have life figured out and neither do the teen protagonists I read about. In fact, through the vast array of young adult books you can read, this is one of the most common threads. By seeing how other characters deal with that transition, I can help myself with my own (rather lengthy) transition. You don’t really get that kind of help from grown-up books.

What do you think makes young adult novels so great? Do you agree with any of my points or does young adult mean something different to you entirely? Please let me know in the comments section.

New Territory / Milestones

When I started this blog, the idea was to talk about all the ins and outs of my personal writing journey. So I’m pleased to announce that I am currently in brand new writing territory.

I am half way through a second draft.

I feel a) a bit silly and b) like a bit of a phony saying that. Silly because it doesn’t sound like much of a milestone and a phony because my first draft was only 16,000 words and I only wrote the dialogue (i.e. the first chapter consisted of two words: “ Pearl hunts”, and the ending didn’t even exist).

But it’s still a milestone because I’ve never not given up at this stage. I’ve never let myself get this far. And now I have it’s exciting and rewarding and also scary.

And baffling. Why is it working this time?

Here are what I believe to be the important factors:

1. People. I’ve started putting my work out there and commenting on other people’s blogs and getting support and encouragement and feedback. Which I always knew I needed, I just had no idea how much.

2. Flash Fiction. Linking on from the above point, I've recently got some very positive feedback from my flash fiction. Having other people express that they like my writing has been a real confidence boost.

3. Time / Practise. I’ve been doing this for a while now. When I started writing, I didn’t know I wanted to write sci-fi YA. I thought I wanted to write fantasy for kids. Only through trial and error and reading new books did I find out where I wanted to be and start practising the right stuff. Which leads me to…

4. Reading the right stuff. For ages, this project stalled because I couldn’t get Pearl ’s voice right. She’s meant to be feral and uneducated. I just didn’t know how to make it work. That was until I read the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness and saw how someone else had done it and done it well. No, I haven’t copied Todd’s voice and I don’t use phonetic spelling, but seeing where someone else had got it right helped me work out how to give Pearl a strong and recognisable voice. I can hear her in my head when I’m writing, now. Until I got her voice right, I couldn’t do anything. So thanks Mr Ness.

5. This blog. In creating my blog, whether I realised it at the time or not, I shifted my perception of myself from someone who’s trying to write a book to someone who’s telling people they’re trying to write a book. I’m not doing this in secret anymore! I’m using my real name and my real face alongside my real words. Anyone who knows me could find this blog. And that makes me vulnerable because I might fail in this endeavour and I wouldn’t be able to hide it from anyone. But I’m doing it anyway because this matters to me and I don’t care who knows it.

6. Goals. I know goals are important but I always set my too high. 2,000 is what I can write on a good day when I'm feeling well and I'm not stressed out. 1,000, however, I can write on any day. Halving my goal has upped my productivity. It's also meant that I've been able to sit down and say "Well, this novel will be done by the 13th August". Not knowing when I would be contributing to the novel made it impossible to set that kind of goal before. But now I'm confident in my ability to get 1,000 words out a day and can therefore set a deadline.
So, there you have it. These factors (and probably a load more I haven’t thought about yet) mean that over the last two months I’ve become more focused, more driven and more enthusiastic. I don’t just think about writing sometimes, I think about it constantly. I don’t just write about characters, I care about them ( Pearl actually made me cry the other day). I go to bed thinking about my book. I read (aka “research”) on the bus to work and on my lunch break. I follow author blogs and writing blogs. I tweet.

And all that’s impacted upon my writing. I’m in a new and exciting place. And it’s a little bit scary.

Can I actually do this?




So everything's going well at the moment with my writing. I've passed a personal milestone (half way through a second draft!), have a million ideas for things to work on once I'm done with Pearl, and I'm generally happy with the way my writing is developing. I don't think I'm publishable yet, but I'm getting there!

What I'm worrying about is all the extra stuff that comes with being an author. Reading other author's blogs has made me aware of how much touring and public speaking and conferencing they do. The idea of public speaking fills me with a dread bordering on phobia.

But by the looks of things interacting with people is pretty crucial when you're an author. Even if you're not public speaking, there's phone calls with agents and meetings with editors and signing with fans (imagine that, eh?). It's all incredibly daunting.

I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but the idea of actively choosing to put myself in the spotlight is so alien to me. I feel sick just thinking about it! Still, I know there's something I can do. Practise.

In the same way I have to practise writing to get better, surely I can practise these other skills, too? It's not unnattainable, it's just the process of getting there will be difficult...


Wow. So the votes are in. I got a total of 6 likes for my flash fiction piece and a very nice person had gone out of their way to comment on it, too! I am thrilled. It means so much to me to know that other people enjoy my writing.

That said, the big news is... I got an "honourable mention"!

Go here: to see my name mentioned on a well respected writer's blog!


Flash Fiction!

I just wrote my first piece of flash fiction for a competition on writer unbox and thought I should post it here too for all to see!

Last delivery of the day. Thank God.
I peer at the glass vessel on the seat beside me. The mask inside is all golden curls and thick eyelashes and full lips. Hardly remarkable. Barely even beautiful.
What’s the point? If I had the money, I’d transform into a superstar, not a housewife!
Rain splats against the windscreen. I enter the client’s name and address into the Sat-Nav – Kim Low, 445 Grooble Street – then press “Go”. The car lurches forward and weaves into the steady flow of traffic.
The rain drenched city goes by. Billboard after billboard. NuFace4U! Girls With Curls! Star Features! Beneath them, the jobless try to stay dry.
The further I go, the taller the buildings get, until the sky is just a slither above me. Then the car draws to a stop beside a cement tower block.
Kim Low must have saved up for years for this new face.
And it’s not even nice.
The car door pops open. I slide out, heave the heavy glass jar into my aching arms and struggle up the drive. By the time I reach the porch, I’m soaked.
Irritated, I slam my palm onto the intercom button.
There’s a pause, then a male voice cracks through. “Hello?”
“Package for Kim Low,” I say.
“Fancy Faces?” comes the wavering reply.
There’s a spluttering sound. Sobbing. Choking. And between the noise I can make out one word, whispered over and over.
“Thank you…”